What Emanuel AME Church Members Teach Us About Grace

Photo: Steve Burmester

Photo: Steve Burmester

It’s been a few days since the violent slayings of nine African Americans in the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME) in Charleston, S.C.

The death of these innocent souls at the hands of a young white man schooled in hatred and racism has touched off a litany of anger, confusion, and yes, even more racism.

I’ve taken in the news in bite-sized pieces and read dozens of articles and blogs about the massacre. I step into the fray and out of the fray, girding my loins, when I feel the need.

What I’ve observed is the rightful anger and disgust of people who are sickened from the smell of blood, disgusted by the racism that permeats this country–everywhere and not only in the Deep South–and want change. I also see people passing the blame off, like kids playing a game of hot potato. I see finger pointing; I see people  proclaiming every white person in America to be a racist because whether individually so or not, all whites benefit from the white systems and institutions (actually a thought provoking piece); I see people disgusted and frustrated over differing opinions on gun control.

What I also see is a lack of tolerance for people with different opinions about flags as symbols, gun control, and the definition of racism.  I see judgment, shades of superiority in lots of different corners. The irony to me is this: the shootings started in the mind of a racist, an intolerant mind, and that mind got moldy and dark and he expressed himself and his intolerance with weapons. His thoughts, beliefs and actions were based in an intolerance of differences.

Now don’t get me wrong here. The righteous outrage that propels meaningful and respectful conversations is a different thing. A necessary thing. The discussions on racism, gun control, and the where do we go from here conversations are needed to forge trust and at least begin the work of healing and problem solving. But they can be done with grace and an honest attempt to tolerant uncomfortable conversations without finger pointing.

Because what I also noticed was the grace- filled members of the congregation gathering just a day after a hate filled young man entered their house of worship with guns and an evil, hate-filled heart, praying for their deceased members and for forgiveness for the cold-blooded killer. How do they do that?

I have always been drawn to those peace loving leaders who hold up the light, who walk the walk, whose lives are the message, the prayer. People like Martin Luther King, Jr, Ghandi, Nelson Mandela, who showed nations of distraught, confused, disempowered people, what love and grace look like. These are the light bearers, the congruent, dignified messengers of hope and peace.

These are the churchgoers of  Emanuel AME Church. These are the people who somehow, in their darkest moments where faith might be rightfully escaping from their lungs, music and prayer reverberate instead, the people who were showing us light, living their lives and faith as a prayer.

These are the people we should hold in prayer so that they may continue to set an example for a confused, enraged and intolerant nation. These are the people we need to pray for us.

If you’re interested in more thoughts on integrity, compassion and grace, particularly at midlife, read my book Tao Flashes .Or visit me at http://www.facebook.com/taoflashes or on twitter @taoflashes.

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6 thoughts on “What Emanuel AME Church Members Teach Us About Grace

    • Sharon, we all do. These church members are walking prayers in my book, and inspiring beyond my words or imagination. Grace x 1000! Even if the rest of us aren’t there, they can show us the way and hold the door open so we can walk through it– if we are able. Not easy!

  1. You are the perfect person to write this post. You embody grace in all you think and do. Thank goodness we have you as our rock to look to for love and guidance. Bless you, Lisa!

  2. I, too, was taken with the unbelievable grace and composure the people of South Carolina have shown, and continue to show. It’s incredible – and a lesson to us all. Bravo to them.

  3. I was so blessed by the reaction of the family members. I have called myself a Christian for many, many years only to be pulling back on that definition of myself simply because of the negative and hateful attitudes of so many of my fellow believers. God be praised, the family members of the Charleston AME actually acted liked the Christians they proclaim themselves to be – they forgave. I only hope and pray I have that kind of courage should I be faced with similar evil.

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